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SANS SOLEIL
1983 - Chris Marker
France
76
Opening Shot

The film begins with a self descriptive narration and image "The first image he told me about was of three children on a raod in Iceland in 1965. He said that for him it was the image of happiness, and that he'd often tried to link it to other images, but it had never worked. He wrote me, 'I'll have to put it all alone at the beggining of a film, with a long piece of black leader. If they don't see happiness in the picture, at least they'll see the black'."

The Film

Meditative, philosophical, and spiritual Sans Soleil rates among the truly unique and special cinematic experiences. Sans Soleil (Sunless) blends various forms of filmmaking. It is not necessarily a personal documentary yet rather an imagination from the personal vision of an artist. In fact the film is patterned around the very idea of how imagination works (be it through memory or illusion). This structure is establish in the films opening moments as a woman tells the audience about a man who is telling her about an image of happiness. Immediatly the creation of illusions is expressed as notable film essayist Chris Marker establishes the tone and poetic structure. Sort of a cinematic journal and puzzle the film takes on a journey throughout the world: Japan, Africa, Iceland, and into Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. The films (occasionally haunting) reflection of memories essentially becomes one of the very nature of memory and the borderline of imagination and reality. The pace of the film is always shifting but it never losses touch of its vast depth and imagery (heightening the emphasis on place, time, vulture, memory, and technology). This is a film that each individual can interrupt on a personal level and even for its experimentalism, San Soleil can be admired on a universal level for its truly meditative beauty.

The Filmmaker

The influential French New Wave movement of the 1960's is often divided into two unique groups. The most common is the "Cahiers Group", which were critics turned filmmakers who emerged from the Cahiers du Cinema (this included Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer, among others). The other group was referred to as the "Left Bank", this included those who were already filmmakers (Agnes Varda, Alain Resnais, Chris Marker, etc). The Left Bank was known to take the profession of filmmaking on a more serious and more experienced terms. This group very often worked in documentaries, and sometimes (like the cahier filmmakers) worked with each other. Chris Marker began making documentaries with Alain Resnais in the early 1950s. A world traveled journalist, Marker established his films as essays. As film essays they defy fiction or non-fiction instead taking the form of a cinematic journal of narrated voice-over and fragmented imagery. The most definitive of Marker's film essays is his greatest masterpiece San Soleil (1983). A master of the subject of time (notable that of memory and reality) Marker's influential 1962 sci-fi short film La Jetee captured his trademark themes. His primarily interest lies in time and in place, and the mystery within them both time and place. Marker's films or cinematic essays are work of art that puts the viewer into the role of the reflecting observer.

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